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‘Day Zero’ Looms as Cape Town Scrambles to Tackle Water Crisis

  • Taps to be turned off on April 12 unless consumption drops
  • Rainwater tanks, buckets sold out as residents stockpile water
A man carries water collected from drinking water from pipes fed by an underground spring near Cape Town.
A man carries water collected from drinking water from pipes fed by an underground spring near Cape Town.RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images
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With less than 80 days to go until “Day Zero,” when chronic water shortages may force Cape Town authorities to turn off the taps, officials are scrambling to persuade the city’s four million residents to slash consumption and put emergency plans in place should the supply be cut off.

Africa’s top tourist destination is in the throes of the worst drought on record, and water levels in its six main supply dams have plummeted to an average of 27.2 percent, from more than 90 percent four years ago. With the winter rainy season still about four months away, residents may find themselves lining up for a daily allocation of 25 liters (6.6 gallons) each from April 12 unless water usage declines sharply.